Postvention guidance for staff impacted by suicide

New evidence-based guidance aims to improve support for NHS staff affected by colleague suicide.

25 July 2023

New suicide postvention guidance has been developed with the input of NHS staff affected by a colleague's death by suicide and those who have provided support to staff affected by suicide.

Staff members across a wide range of job roles and levels of seniority shared their experiences and insight as part of a nationwide study by the University of Surrey which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Health Service and Delivery Research.

The study aimed to understand the impact of colleague suicide on NHS staff and learn more about their support needs to help inform new postvention guidance.

Three study participants also shared their stories in After Them, a short film that depicts the challenges and emotional toll they experienced.

The suicide rate for health professionals is 24 per cent higher than the national average, while those affected by suicide are at greater risk of mental ill health and suicide attempt themselves.

Past research shows that if people affected by suicide receive support early enough it can help them come to terms with their loss and reduce the risk of mental health problems and suicide. It is therefore essential that NHS staff receive the best support at the right time.

The new guidance is intended for everyone who works for the NHS and is affected by suicide, and also targeted towards NHS executive leaders, decision makers and policymakers.

It calls on trusts and ICBs to have in place a dedicated, trained postvention team who can respond rapidly, safely and robustly to the needs of staff and managers in the event of a colleague suicide. 

The guidance was launched on 25 July 2023, and a recording of the launch event is now available.

You can access and download the full guidance below.

Further support and resources

This new guidance builds on work already being done to support employers with this important topic. Suicide is preventable and employers play a crucial role in suicide prevention. 

You may find the following resources useful.

  • The NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network has worked with the Samaritans to produce a comprehensive toolkit to help NHS organisations develop and implement a process to manage the impact of employee suicide on colleagues.
  • The Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) and the Office of the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (AHP) have developed publications aimed at supporting the health and wellbeing of the ambulance sector workforce and preventing suicide in this service.
  • Our suicide prevention and postvention web page offers further information on the impact of suicide and how employers can best support staff through preventative and postventative measures.
  • Our empowering staff to assess suicide risk in colleagues case study shows how University Hospitals of Northamptonshire NHS Group supported staff who were at serious risk of suicide.